In the world of sports, the toughest part of putting together an incredible season is coming back the next year to back it up with everyone expecting the same results. The world of Wolverine fans will be expecting nothing less than a BCS bowl win this season, plain and simple.
But before expectations can be met, expectations have to be established. For example, how many Michigan fans would say their number one goal for this season is a Big Ten Championship? That is exactly what Brady Hoke is saying, though. He has made it very clear from day one that his teams will strive for Big Ten Championship trophies before focusing on anything that comes after that, like a National Championship. Some reporters at Hoke's first press conference had a very hard time understanding that logic, so it is very easy to see where fan and coach expectations are colliding.
Some critics are saying last season was a fluke, that an 11-win season capped with a BCS bowl win was way too much for reality. Others say the conference schedule was a little too light to really give credit to the Wolverines for what they accomplished under first-year coach Brady Hoke.
And now, talking about the upcoming season, most believe this will bring the Wolverines back to where they belong, which is still better than where Rich Rodriguez had the program, but not as "deceiving" as last season.
Breaking down the main possibilities for the 2012 Wolverines, let's look at what can be done.
Michigan's 2012 conference schedule is very split. Getting Michigan State, Northwestern, and Iowa at home is bigger than most people think. Northwestern is a team that is on the rise and can be very dangerous on any given Saturday, and the same thing applies to a team like Iowa. Getting them in the Big House will add some cushion to games that could end up making or breaking the Wolverine's run at a title. Then it goes without saying that getting to play Michigan State at home is a huge advantage. A massive rivalry atmosphere will always play into the hands of the home team, especially with an in-state battle.
Fortunately, there are only two real road challenges this year. Unfortunately, these games are at Ohio State and Nebraska. Both games are going to be extremely tough, and both teams will be looking for revenge, as Michigan beat them back-to-back to finish off the regular season in 2011.
BCS Bowl Win
For most people, picking up a BCS bowl win will be the toughest part of last season to back up. First of all, there are a number of critics who don't believe Michigan can even get back to a BCS bowl, let alone win one. The Wolverines made a tremendous at-large candidate last season and eventually made the cut to get the invite to the Sugar Bowl. Personally, I think the more likely scenario in 2012 is winning the Big Ten and going to the Rose Bowl.
Michigan has a very tough non-conference schedule and could find a hard time trying to meet the qualifications of an at-large candidate for the second year in a row. Their best shot is to get in the conference schedule, win the Legends Division, then win the Big Ten Championship.
Winning 11 games again this season is going to be extremely difficult with such a demanding non-conference schedule. Before conference play, there are already two legitimate chances for losses against Alabama and Notre Dame, both games being away. And then there are a lot of challenges inside the conference. That is why I believe this will be the hardest expectation to live up to in 2012 because the schedule is significantly tougher, especially right away. However, this is Michigan.